SF Symphony presents Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (archive post)

October 30, 2012

There may be no more bizarre and creepy horror film than The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). It is a masterpiece of German Expressionism.

To celebrate Halloween, the San Francisco Symphony will screen the classic silent film with live improvised organ accompaniment by Cameron Carpenter.

This special concert screening will include the equally strange short, The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912), an early stop-motion film by Wladyslaw Starewicz about life and love among a group of beetles.

Both films will be shown on Tuesday, October 30 at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. Before the 7:00 pm screening, Carpenter, a Grammy nominee known for his virtuosity, showmanship, and technique, will perform a mini recital on the Davies’ Ruffatti Organ.

Conrad Veidt in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Conrad Veidt in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (originally Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari) is considered one of the great films the silent era. Directed by Robert Wiene from a screenplay by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, the film stars Werner Krauss as Caligari (a fortune telling sideshow operator), Conrad Veidt as Cesare (a somnambulist controlled by Caligari), and Lil Dagover as Jane Olsen (a distraught love interest). The film’s uncredited producers were Rudolf Meinert and Erich Pommer.

Influenced by Expressionism, a movement in the visual arts then dominant in Germany, the film employs highly stylized sets featuring a jagged landscape and distorted buildings and interiors painted on canvas backdrops. The film’s many angular and distorted shadows were painted as well.

To add to its strange “expressive” style, the actors appearance and the way they carry themselves is also distorted and dancelike. The movie is, as well, cited as having introduced the twist ending.

Hightening the film’s inherent tension will be Carpenter’s improvised score.

Carpenter studied composition and organ performance at the North Carolina School of the Arts and at Juilliard, where he received his Master of Music in 2006. Currently based in Berlin, Carpenter was the first organist ever nominated for a Grammy® award for a solo record.

In 2012, Carpenter made his debut at the BBC Proms in a pair of Bach recitals. He was recently awarded the prestigious Leonard Bernstein Prize at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Germany. And last year, he performed his improvised score to The Phantom of the Opera on the Davies Hall Ruffatti organ.


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